Biaggi stuns Klein camp/Fierce community advocate defeated by an unknown leftist

During the Democratic primary on Thursday, September 13 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (r) and Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon greeted parents at P.S. 304.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

What began as a progressive ‘blue wave’ has become a full fledged tsunami.

Alessandra Biaggi, a 32-year-old lawyer from Pelham, NY, and the granddaughter of former Congressman Mario Biaggi, defeated Senator Jeff Klein in the Democratic primary for the 34th Senate District by a vote of 53.11 percent to 44.48 percent in the Thursday, September 13 primary.

According to unofficial numbers from the NYS Board of Elections, out of a total of 33,172 votes, Biaggi pulled in 17,618 to Klein’s 14,754.

Biaggi ran on a platform of progressive change and again and again called Klein out for forming the now-disbanded Independent Democratic Conference, saying that the IDC blocked progressive legislation at a time when Washington was in the hands of the Republican opposition; convinced that voting alongside Republican issues was a “betrayal to the party.”

She had also counted on the support of elected officials from outside of the community such as New York’s junior U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and NYC Public Advocate Scott Stringer, who had both used this race to raise their ‘progressive’ credentials.

Fellow Bronx progressive political novice Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom stunned many with her primary victory over incumbent Congressman Joseph Crowley on June 26, had also endorsed and campaigned with Biaggi.

Later, she told the Bronx Times that she defeated Klein “with heart, with passion, with organizing and with unrelenting energy.”

“It sends a shockwave to the powers that be that we are not going to tolerate the same old way of doing things,” said Biaggi “It is not going to be four men in a room making decisions.”

Biaggi said the future of the Democrat Party is inclusive, diverse and also has compassion.

She added that this future brings with it all the people, who will be at the table.

Klein kept to himself as his fate drew clearer that Thursday night, as he didn’t address his supporters at the Bronx Democrats Candidates Party, making a silent and early exit.

Klein will still be on the ballot in November on the Independence Party line, but as of press time it is not yet clear whether or not he will actively campaign.

According to a source, there are stirrings that he may seek a judgeship.

The once powerful Bronx official was first elected to an assemblyman seat in 1994, and to his present office in 2004, and was well known for quality constituent services and a fierce devotion to the communities he served.

Elected officials that worked with Klein said he delivered for his community by funding a wide-range of programs and through constituent support services.

“Jeff Klein has been a dedicated public servant who time and again has successfully fought to deliver for his community,” said Councilman Mark Gjonaj. “He has built an unmatched record of accomplishment and I am proud to call him a friend.”

“Over 25 years, Jeff Klein proved himself to be a hardworking legislator, and a person devoted to the community who gave enormous services to the community,” said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, adding that Klein went above and beyond what is required of a public official and that “his district office gave exemplary constituent services.”

He started his career serving under Congressman James Scheuer, who represented Pelham Parkway in the 1970s, eventually winning a Democratic Party district leadership position.

Klein’s statewide successes included five terms in the Assembly when he replaced George Friedman, who was elevated to Bronx Supreme Court. He later filled the seat vacated by Guy Velella in the senate after defeating Assemblyman Stephen Kaufman in a hard fought primary battle in 2004.

In other Bronx Democratic Party primary races, an open seat in the 87th Assembly District left vacant by now Senator Luis Sepulveda was won by Karines Reyes with 57.84 percent of the vote over her two competitors: John Perez and Farah Despeignes.

Reyes, a registered nurse at the Montefiore Einstein Hospital oncology department received Sepulveda’s endorsement for the position.

“I cannot think of a better qualified person to fill my former seat in the 87th Assembly District than Karines Reyes. Her record as a deeply involved member of her community; a strong leader in her union; a nurse who almost daily deals with not just health issues, but a host of social issues that go with it; a mother deeply concerned about education issues and a host of other issues, make her more than qualified to be our next assemblymember,” Sepulveda said.

While celebrating in a room filled with mixed emotions, Reyes addressed healthcare issues that face the borough.

“We know that the Bronx is the most unhealthy county in the state, I believe it’s important we start looking at our troubles through a different lens,” she said.

Klein’s plans for his post-political future are currently unknown. He will continue to serve the district until December 31.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. Reach Reporter Alexander Mitchell at (718) 260-4599.

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